In the Tradition of Kierkegaard,

Nietzsche, and Proverbs


Cliff Williams

A Professional Philosopher
Whose Thoughts Sometimes Stray from the
Abstract and Esoteric to the Mundane,
But Sublime, Matters of Living


  • Only those who value magnificence experience awe when encountering it.


  • It is a frightful thing to get to the end of one's life and discover that one was bored with it.

  • The easiest, though not the best, remedy for boredom is to bury ourselves in activity.

  • Afternoon boredom arises from not knowing what to do for the next hour, whereas cosmic boredom springs from despair about the ultimate meaning of life.

  • The line between afternoon boredom and cosmic boredom is sometimes pretty thin.


  • The charm of busyness is its diversion.


  • Often the choices we face are not between good and bad, but between good and good.


  • Only those who are able to let go of everything to which they are attached are ready to die.

  • A haunting question: If I were to die tomorrow afternoon, would I be able to say that my life had meaning?

Emotional Wounds

  • Emotional wounds are often more difficult to heal than physical wounds.

  • One cannot simply wish away emotional pain. It must be salved tenderly and lovingly, with courage and honesty.


  • The best gifts are our time and interest.

Golden Rule

  • The attitude we should have toward those whom we regard as hypocrites is the attitude we would want people to have toward us if they regarded us as hypocrites.


  • In an atmosphere of grace, we feel safe admitting what ordinarily we do not disclose to anyone.


  • One who expresses genuine gratitude is as enriched by doing so as is the recipient.


  • We dare not reveal certain parts of our inner lives to anyone, and sometimes we are deathly afraid to reveal them even to ourselves.


  • Honesty with ourselves needs to be tempered with a good dose of graciousness.

How to Live

  • When you are with someone, be with them.

  • Good: Live as if it is your last day.

  • Better: Live as if it is your first day.

  • How one reacts to failure is an indicator of one's character, and so is how one reacts to success.

  • One of life's great aims is to scatter love wherever we go.


  • It is the greatest of tragedies to go through one's life not caring about its meaning.


  • Joy is a species of pleasure: deep, meaningful, all-encompassing, overcoming of suffering, life-enhancing, overflowing, and radiating out of our faces to all whom we encounter.

Justice and Revenge

  • Justice is motivated by the desire for an offender to be punished; revenge is motivated by sweet glee at seeing an offender writhe in pain.

  • The desire for justice can easily slip into the desire for revenge, especially when it is prompted by harm to oneself.


  • Sometimes our kindness restores another without our knowing it.

  • To look at others with kind eyes is to give them an irreplaceable gift.

Knowing Ourselves

  • We may think we know ourselves well, but the truth is that we are, to an uncomfortable degree, strangers to ourselves.


  • The only way to listen to someone is to stop talking.


  • A self-centered person is not able to give genuine love, and is also not able to receive genuine love.

  • Habits can deaden love, but they can also keep love alive.

  • It is better to love and fumble than to prevent the fumble by not loving.

Loving Our Neighbor

  • If we would love our neighbor, we will need to become attuned to their tears and their delights.

Loving Ourselves

  • Sometimes the best gift we can give ourselves is to treat ourselves to some kindnesses.


  • For most of us, lying to ourselves is more tempting than lying to others.


  • One of life's great aims is to feel keenly both its tragedy and its beauty.

  • Sometimes life is disappointing, but sometimes it isn't.

  • Winning adulation and praise feels satisfying, but we will not be able to take them with us when we die.

  • No one wants to waste a few hours of time, but few are concerned about wasting their whole lives.

  • Some people regard life as a prison that can be escaped only through death. Others live as though they were dead. Still others regard life with joyous freedom, to be savored and loved.


  • Being haunted by the memory of an evil deadens; treasuring the memory of a good quickens.

  • If we live and love well, we will have numerous memories that we can cherish.

Moral Beauty

  • The beautiful splendor of a mountain vista is one thing; the beautiful splendor of a gentle act of kindness is another; but both are worthy of awe and delighted wonder.

  • There is little more attractive than a gracious and gentle person.


  • There is little more warming than to be with those who delight in our presence.

Restless Hearts

  • Behind a driven life is a restless heart.

Secret Hiding Places

  • We may think we are totally alone when we enter our secret hiding places, but numerous people follow us there in our minds.


  • Silence is not restorative if we brood on our worries during it.

The Trivial

  • The impulse to engage in trivialities is often greater than the impulse to do what is wrong.

  • A life full of trivialities may not harm others, but it can make one's own character hollow.

Some of these aphorisms are quoted or reworked from my Daybreakers (Sorin Books, 2002), "Diary of a Mad
Trinity Magazine (Spring 2012), 23, and With All that We Have, Why Aren't We Satisfied? (Sorin Books, 2001).

Copyright © 2015 by Cliff Williams All rights reserved.

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